Now that the weather’s getting better and nights’ a little longer, it’s time to get your outdoor living space freshened up for the entertaining season ahead.

We recently caught up with Sophie Greive, Landscape Architect and horticulturalist from Think Outside Gardens in Sydney. Sophie works on a wide range of outdoor projects and often includes outdoor fireplaces in her designs.

We chat to Sophie about all things outdoor design, fireplaces and how you can get your backyard spruced up for summer.


Hi Sophie! What are the key things to consider when it comes to designing an outdoor living area?

Work out what you want to do in the space – list all your priorities and create a ‘wish list’. Is it an outdoor dining table or would you prefer casual seating? A portable or built-in barbecue, ample storage or kids play, water feature or swimming pool? Once you’ve done this, work out your budget and let the designer know so the final design is realistic.

The architectural style of the house is important too. A good garden design works with a seamless flow from indoors to out, with similar interiors and styling throughout.


A compact Paddington home with courtyard designed by Think Outside Gardens.

What’s trending at the moment in outdoor design?

With an increased popularity in all things fire, we predict this will continue into the use of dual function fireplaces suited to doing more than one thing in your garden.  

The outdoor living space is no different from your indoor space with the fireplace being the feature – they’re a reason to gather. Whether to cook, warm up, or simply relax beside on a sofa.

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Escea EK Outdoor Fireplace Kitchen


The dual-function Escea EK Outdoor Fireplace Kitchen and Fire Table have both fireplace and cooking capabilities. The Fire Table converts to a stylish outdoor table when not in use.

Have you got any tips or advice for people with small backyards?

If your backyard is small don’t overcrowd the space. Often it’s best to simply extend the indoor space by using the same flooring material outside, which makes it look like one big space.

Built-in floating style benches are great in allowing tables to be pushed towards the boundaries, and create the illusion of more space.

Key plant choices are needed to screen out neighbours and create shade, or to provide a backdrop or feature in the garden. Boundary fences can often be clad in painted or hardwood slats to add interest and further extend the space.


A character terrace house with landscape design by Think Outside Gardens.

How do you integrate outdoor fireplaces into your designs?

Outdoor fireplaces add versatility to your home – a lot of gardens are summer only spaces. The addition of a fireplace means an outdoor space can be used year-round.

We often suggest an outdoor fireplace is placed either adjacent to the rear family room in an alfresco area or under a pergola/veranda, or elsewhere as a destination point in the garden.


An outdoor wood fireplace by Escea makes an impressive outdoor focal point in this Central Otago home. Design by Dravitizki Brown.

Design them in a similar way that you would integrate a fireplace into your house – they are usually part of a feature wall, often clad in stone or rendered and painted, and a furniture setting and coffee table placed around.

Our personal preference is for wood or coals if it is a dual function fireplace and cooker (as nothing beats the taste of a wood-fired barbecue!). If it’s only going to be used as a fireplace, an easier alternative may be gas. It really depends on the client’s lifestyle and cooking style.

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An outdoor gas fireplace sits in this cosy, outdoor setting which is designed with indoor-outdoor flow in mind |  Image by Amanda Aitken

Lastly, what tips or advice have you got for someone looking to spruce up their backyard this summer? Where do they start?

Again be realistic and start with a budget. If you don’t want to spend a lot, often buying some new outdoor furniture or cushions can smarten up a space and create a fresh summer vibe. Cleaning existing paving, painting a wall, or planting a few new plants can also spruce up a space.

If you are looking at doing something larger, the best place to start is with a design or outdoor landscape company that has a Landscape Architect or Designer in-house. They will walk you through what’s possible and help you with any council submissions too.

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Learn more about Think Outside Gardens here, or see the full range of Outdoor Fireplaces at Stoke here.